After three years of ongoing demolition and reconstruction at the Brownwood High campus, the school’s students, faculty and staff have had to overcome numerous challenges. The complex is being essentially rebuilt in phases while the important business of education has continued amid dust, leaking roofs, relocations and detours in routes leading to offices and classrooms.
Even so, they’ve all endured — if not prevailed, as improved test scores suggest — knowing that with the final phases of construction now getting under way, a practically new campus on the Slayden Street site in use since 1960 will be their reward.
No one will be more relieved to work in a completed facility than Draco Miller, owner of Draco’s Janitorial and Auto Detailing, whose firm has held the contract for janitorial services at the high school for the past seven years. Last month, his firm was awarded a two-year contract by the Brownwood school board to continue its services at the high school, effective Sept. 1.
“It’s been hard, it’s been difficult, working through this construction,” Miller said. “There were times I just wanted to pull my hair out. We just can’t keep the building immaculate like we like. Right now, it’s hard to evaluate a complaint. I commend my employees. They really go the extra mile. I told the board, I want to give way the best bang for the buck.”
Assistant Superintendent Kevin Gabaree acknowledged the difficulties Miller’s crews have faced.
“Their biggest challenge is to clean the facility,” Gabaree said. “You do the cleaning, and then you look behind you and it looks like you haven’t cleaned anything.”
Meanwhile, roof issues that might have been expected during construction were complicated by a series of damaging hail storms, and the delays in making repairs encountered as negotiations were under way for an insurance settlement.
Some confusion was also created because of the separation of janitorial duties and maintenance functions at the high school, which are ideally divided respectively between Miller’s contracted crews and school district employees. At other campuses, the responsibilities are combined under the oversight of district maintenance personnel.
“Brownwood High School is to the only outsourced campus for janitorial,” Miller said. “A lot of the people didn’t understand, the faculty and the parents. Once they did, they said, ‘This guy does have a difficult task.’”
Miller said the first year of construction, which got under way after voters approved a $29.4 million bond issue in February 2005, “was hectic for us. We were being asked to do things we normally wouldn’t do. We just did the job anyway… There were leaks everywhere in the classrooms, and ceiling tiles that needed to be replaced. Those are maintenance issues.”
Miller said he staffs the campus with two shifts of employees, after initially working one shift from 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 or 7 p.m.
“That wasn’t working,” Miller said. “Sometimes someone would leave late and they would find a door unlocked. We had to fight that hurdle.”
His two shifts now include one that covers during the day, with a second shift handling evening duties until 10 or 11 p.m.
“Sometimes they’ll stay until 11:30 p.m. or later,” Miller said. “We don’t have a problem with that. But some people don’t know what all we do.”
Frequent meetings have resulted in a better understanding between the school and janitorial company, Miller said.
“We got together with Kevin Gabaree and (Principal) Bill Faircloth and are now working closely together to keep communication open,” Miller said. “We got it done in the meetings. I expressed my feeling that I don’t mind helping with some maintenance issues. It’s a win-win situation when we communicate.”
Miller said it was important to him to have a two-year contract, rather than the previous one-year agreements, so he could take advantage of bulk purchase discount on supplies and ensure that services would extent beyond the completion of construction, which still has several more months to go.
“We are ready to plan for the future,” Miller said. “Everything is looking up.”
The contract approved by the school board in May runs from Sept. 1, 2008, through Aug. 31, 2010. The contract price is $19,132.55 a month, or $229,590.60 a year — an increase of $2,428.72 a month from the current contract. Miller said the price still represents a discounted rate to the district, but an increase was needed to cover higher costs of wages, fuel and cleaning agents.